GOLDSTEIN: A lot of what I’ve been working on is the historical reconstruction of attention. As in using technology to reconstruct what people have been paying attention to and playing it back to them, and allowing them to compare and contrast with other people. What happens when you move the concept of attention forward, into the future.
Let’s take a mortgage: I search for “refinance” on Google, and then I fill out a form. What I am telling the form is, “here’s my information, here’s when I want to be contacted, Monday at 9:00.” If the marketer behaves successfully, then I get a call at 9:00, because I’ve essentially promised to pay attention at 9:00. There’s a contract. It’s the same when you are enquiring about purchasing a new car. When are you looking to purchase: a week, a month, three months.
There’s so many atomic units vying for attention, you need to be much more forceful about deciding what you are going to pay attention to. It has gotten to a point where you actually have to schedule your attention: I’m going to pay attention to this person or this company at this time. In a world of TIVO-enabled time shifting, the time requirements go away because it’s fungible, because you can record it and watch it later, but you still have to slot it in somewhere. There’s a calculation you need to do. Even though the episode of “24” from two weeks ago automatically got stored, you still have to pay attention to it to receive the benefit of the information.
GOLDHABER: Right, but many times people never get around to that.
GOLDSTEIN: True, but there’s always a logic which says “I’m not going to pay attention to this because I need to do this thing instead.” Or, “I can look at this now because I have a window of time”…
GOLDHABER: Once you have something on TIVO, your compulsion goes down a great deal compared with “I have to watch it tonight or I’ll never see it.” Once we start having all the programs on the Internet, people’s attitudes towards them are going to shift. It’s sort of like, I bought this book, it’s on my shelf, and I don’t have to read it right now. And the same thing keeps occurring. On the other hand, if you’re reading War and Peace you already sort of know the ending and uh, but getting around to do something, the more it’s just there, it becomes harder. Unless it’s actually enforced on you the way the education and the canon used to force people to read certain books.
(thread 5 of conversation with between seth goldstein and michael goldhaber after oreilly's attention economy conference, in march of 2006 in oakland)